You may have recently heard about DNA methylation as one of the newer buzzwords around the alternative health industry. Factually, methylation has been known for some time and in this article we’ll bring you up to speed on what this is, why it’s important and how it may impact your health. We will also introduce to you a new supplement that is essential to consider adding to your daily routine if basic lifestyle changes aren’t enough for you to find balance. First let’s define a few things.
What is Methylation and Why Should We Care?
DNA, also known as deoxyribonucleic acid, is “the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA. The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases, and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people. The order, or sequence, of these bases determines the information available for building and maintaining an organism, similar to the way in which letters of the alphabet appear in a certain order to form words and sentences.” (source)
Methylation, or as it is often called, DNA methylation is an epigenetic (arising from nongenetic influence on gene expression) mechanism that occurs through the addition of a methyl group (an alkyl derived from methane, containing one carbon atom bonded to three hydrogen atoms — CH3) to DNA which has the ability to then modify or mediate cell expression. DNA methylation is responsible for the normal functioning of many systems including:
- The stress (fight-or-flight) response and other stress related disorders such as PTSD (source)
- The recycling of glutathione – the master antioxidant. There are over 17,000 published studies on glutathione (source)
- The detoxification of hormones, chemicals and heavy metals – this is a byproduct of healthy glutathione levels
- The inflammation response
- Genetic expression and the repair of DNA
- Neurotransmitters and the balancing of brain chemistry
- Energy production
- The repair of cells damaged by free radicals
- The immune response, controlling T-cell production, fighting infections and viruses and regulating the immune response making methylation a key process to managing autoimmune conditions (source)
Simply put, DNA methylation helps to maintain functionality or mediation of cell expression within the body. It can also deactivate or switch off unnecessary genes and prevent abnormal cell division. This means that future cell generations may be less “abnormal” and thus allow you to age better. This process of methylation can have some profound effects, especially on people who have tried other remedies with little or no success. For example, serotonin, the antidepressant “happy feel good” chemical in the brain, when not methylated becomes inactive which then can lead to depression.
How Does This Happen?
As we age our bodies tend to “get tired” not producing enough enzymes to digest properly, not responding to trauma as easily, the “bounce back” effect of our youth is but a memory. Who hasn’t woken up in their 30’s after a night of a couple drinks and thought, “wow, I’m not 22 anymore!” Thus one of the processes that naturally begins to tire is the methylation process. This results in a buildup of homocysteine. It should further be noted that we don’t have to “get old” in order to experience a lack of methylation, some people have this problem earlier in life, just as some people have weak digestion from a young age, or require very thick glasses as a child.
There are a few factors that can disrupts or cause methylation problems other than aging, such as:
- Genetics or more specifically the MTHFR genetic mutation, resulting in a highly reduced ability to convert folate into its usable form
- Poor diet, includes eating too many meats and not enough vegetables and other sources of vitamin B6, B12, Betaine and Folate.
- Smoking, which is said to deactivate B6 (along with being carcinogenic)
- Malabsorption and decreased stomach acid, obviously if you aren’t digesting, then you aren’t breaking food down to a level that can be used by your body
- Medications, a study from Tulane University, has cited that some of the prescription drugs given to cardiovascular and diabetic patients inhibit the absorption of certain vitamins causing an excess buildup of homocysteine levels thus ultimately exacerbating the condition the prescriptions are intended to address. (source)
- Toxins, some toxins inhibit the body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins
- Preexisting or Other Conditions including hypothyroidism, cancer, pregnancy, kidney problem
One way to test for a lack of methylation occurring in the body is through blood testing of homocysteine levels. Other tests are possible, some cost more, check with your doctor to review your options and choose the best for you. Much research has now been done which has lead to a conclusion that higher homocysteine levels in the body can contribute to many diseases and dysfunctions including:
- Heart Disease and Stroke (including the narrowing of blood vessels which can cause many additional problems)
- Higher levels of oxidized LDL
- Dementia and Alzheimer
- Liver Disease
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
What Can Be Done?
There are some lifestyle changes that can be made to help the body methylate properly and to bring down homocysteine levels. Any effort to reduce the risk factors is certainly worth your time. The first step is make some dietary changes. In general there are things you want to add and other things you want to subtract. Eat more items with higher levels of B vitamins which include dark leafy greens such as kale, watercress, spinach, Swiss chard, dandelion, collards, and mustard greens. Certain nuts such as walnuts, sunflower seeds, fish, eggs and some cheeses. Eat more fermented foods. Fermented foods are a power source of probiotics which will not only enhance your immune system but will also help you digest better. They are vital in today’s modern world where so much of what we consume tends to kill our intestinal bacteria such as ANY meat raised with antibiotics, doctor prescribed antibiotics and some other Pharmaceutical drugs.
Things to subtract or moderate include smoking, drinking alcohol often (more than a couple times a week and certainly more than 1-2 glasses), excessive coffee intake, in other words, things that deplete your vitamin B stores or inhibit your digestion of the above sources of food which contain higher amounts of B vitamins. Some experts recommend avoiding gluten and dairy, but you should see for yourself what works best for you. Basically, you should get in the habit of avoiding any foods that your body does not handle well. Other than food, stress should also be avoided. Stress burns your B vitamin stores as well as causing other problems both physically and mentally over time.
Now that we’ve briefly touched on what to include in your diet and what to eliminate or moderate, let’s talk about the next steps for those who need extra help. For some, supplementing for this condition is a wise choice. There are a few supplements on the market right now with varying levels of success in treating the MTHFR gene mutation. We are excited to share with you a new product to help with elevated homocysteine levels by supporting the proper methylation sequence within the body. This proven formula is called Methylation Synergy Supreme and is being sold by Synergy Nutritionals.
Methylation Synergy Supreme contains key nutrients that help maintain a healthy homocysteine pathway, allowing for the normal production of necessary and important end products. This formulation includes NatureFolate, a proprietary blend of naturally occurring folates known to facilitate the efficient metabolism of homocysteine. This blend contains the most bioavailable form of folate, 5-MTHF. The mineral zinc is also included in this formulation, because it is a necessary cofactor for the proper support of enzymes in the pathway.
Homocysteine is not to be feared, but to be appreciated and controlled. The key is to maintain healthy levels, as an optimally functioning homocysteine pathway provides nutrients for necessary biochemical reactions in the body.